Important progress has been made internationally in bringing individuals to justice for recruiting and using child soldiers. Prosecutions of persons for the war crime of conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years, or using them to participate actively in hostilities have taken place in the International Criminal Court and the Special Court for Sierra Leone in recent years. Seven people (one from the Democratic Republic of Congo and 6 in relation to armed conflict in Sierra Leone) have been convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment by these courts. The International Criminal Court is investigating and prosecuting other cases.
However, at a national level impunity for serious crimes against children, including their recruitment and use as soldiers, and other crimes that may be committed against child soldiers such as rape and other forms of sexual violence remains widespread.
A growing number of states have criminalised child recruitment and use. However, there are still many governments that have yet to pass legislation to explicitly criminalise these acts. Even where such legislation has been adopted, weak criminal justice systems and lack of political will continue to mean that criminal investigations and prosecutions generally do not take place.
Child Soldiers International believes that laws to prohibit and criminalise children from being unlawfully recruited and used are an essential part of any child soldier prevention strategy, and that states must be encouraged and supported both in adopting such legislation and in strengthening criminal justice systems to enable them to effectively investigate and prosecute such crimes in accordance with international fair trial standards.
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